Lee Papers Call for Survivor: Lieutenant Governor, Hosted by Jeff Essmann

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There must have been a memo from Lee headquarters in Davenport this week to use the word “vet” in editorials. Perhaps using the short word will save enough ink on the page to offer another bonus to the corporate leadership structure at the chain, because its use in two more tepid, timid editorials about the selection of Montana’s next lieutenant governor don’t make any sense in any other way. And it’s pretty clear that at least one of them doesn’t know what the term even means.

The Gazette’s argument?

Considering his three-year track record, Bullock would do well to vet his next candidate in public before making the final selection. If the glare of publicity and politics is more than the candidate wants to bear before being appointed, he or she may not last till the end of Bullock’s term a year from now.

The Independent Record?

We believe the public has a right to know the process Bullock is using in making this important decision, and he needs to be honest with us about what he’s looking for in a lieutenant governor and how he is vetting candidates.

I get that the editors of these papers don’t spend a great deal of time reading the reporting they do—the huge number of embarrassing errors in most editions makes that clear—but they do realize that Governor Bullock explained what characteristics he’d like his next Lieutenant Governor to possess in a Billings Gazette story, right? They understand that Bullock’s selection of a Lieutenant Governor will be something voters can evaluate in an election, right? Is the editorial position of these two papers that Governor Bullock should float a few names out and let the public and newspapers weigh in on his selection? That’s simply an idiotic proposition. Neither editorial explains what a more public process would look like, because there’s no way Governor Bullock could make it more public.

Anyone who lives in Montana who is constitutionally eligible to become governor can notify Bullock’s office that s/he is interested in the post. Hell, I’m pretty sure Brad Johnson has already been asked to quit dropping of his resume.

While it’s got to be heartening for Jeff Essmann to hear his talking points echoed in two of the state’s newspapers, neither paper actually explains what they mean when they talk about “vetting” candidates or making the process more public. Do they envision a TV game show like Survivor, in which prospective candidates are given bureaucratic challenges and forced to make a shelter out of Senator David Howard’s toupee? Maybe The Voice offers a model, and teams led by state politicians can subject candidates to contests to be voted on by the public? Or maybe the papers think Governor Bullock should offer an Apprentice-style contest, complete with him telling candidates “You’re fired” at the end of tense episodes?

Governor Bullock has a choice to make about his next lieutenant governor and his next running mate. And the public will have ample opportunity to evaluate that choice and decide to keep Governor Bullock in office or not. Maybe it’s time to start devoting some editorial space to real issues, like the need to be nice at dog parks. Those editorials actually have more substance than either of these did.

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About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba is an eighteen-year teacher of English, former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.

His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.

In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

1 Comment

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  • Although a number of people, a few whom I respect, are making a big deal out of this lieutenant governor situation, I think it’s a non-story — a tempest in a teapot. Most state government department heads wield more power than the lt. gov. I certainly don’t believe it will cost Bullock any votes next fall.

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